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Full text of "My Country And My People"

Chapter Two
THE  CHINESE  CHARACTER

I. MELLOWNESS

"CHARACTER" is a typically English word. Apart from the
English, few nations have laid such stress on character in their
ideal of education and manhood as the Chinese. The Chinese
seem to be so preoccupied with it that in their whole philosophy
they have not been able to think of anything else. Totally
devoid of any extra-mundane interests, and without getting
involved in any religious claptrap, this ideal of building of
character has, through the influence of their literature, the
theatre, and proverbs, permeated to the lowliest peasant, and
provided him with a philosophy of life. But while the English
word "character" suggests strength, courage, "guts," and
looking merely glum in moments of anger or disappointment,
the Chinese word for "character" brings to us the vision of a
mature man of mellow temperament, retaining an equanimity
of mind under all circumstances, with a complete understanding
not only of himself but of his fellow-men.

The Sung philosophy has a tremendous confidence in the
power and supremacy of the mind over emotions, and an
overweening assurance that the human mind, through its
understanding of oneself and of one's fellow-men, is able to
adjust itself to the most unfavourable circumstances and
triumph over them. The Great Learning, the Confucian primer
: with which Chinese schoolboys used to begin their first lesson
at school,. defines the "great learning" as consisting of the
attainment of a "dear character," which is almost an impossible
English expression, but by which is meant the illumination of
understanding, developed and cultivated through knowledge*
A mellow understanding of life and of human nature is, and
always has been, the Chinese ideal of character, and from that